Outness at work

  • trl_

    Posts: 994

    Apr 08, 2010 2:13 AM GMT
    One of my supervisors is really cool and knows those of us that have been there for a while now really well. Something awkward though is that he talks to a few of us about his personal life and asks me in particular (i have no idea why) for relationship advise. He always asks me about "what should I do with this girl" etc. I don't know how to respond. I don't know whether it would be appropriate to come out to a supervisor. I have played my words carefully to never indicate that I'm straight, but I haven't come out fully.

    Another instance is that a co-worker today said something along the lines of "gosh I just love the spring at this school". My very gay response was:
    "I know the campus is really nice."
    and he just said "...oh I meant the girls."
    "......................oh, right."

    Is coming out at work appropriate?
  • creature

    Posts: 5197

    Apr 08, 2010 2:32 AM GMT
    I don't think it's a question of appropriateness.

    You're coming clean to everyone that you like men instead of women. Just like how your co-workers have revealed to you they enjoy the opposite sex.

    And regarding the advice he seeks — it doesn't matter if you're gay. As long as you understand people (being a person yourself), you are just as qualified to provide sound advice.

    Hopefully no one in your office is homophobic and I hope you live in a state that protects you from being fired for your sexuality.
  • trl_

    Posts: 994

    Apr 08, 2010 2:54 AM GMT
    I live in Colorado which fortunately does protect my job in terms of my sexuality icon_biggrin.gif
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    Apr 08, 2010 4:04 AM GMT
    Sadly, despite legal protections that do exist in some places to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, discrimination still quietly happens.

    I consider myself "out". I do "come out" to people with whom I work, but I always remember that these people are first and foremost professional colleagues. Friendships may develop, but that only happens over time.

    I do not make sexual orientation nor sexuality a topic of workplace conversation. These topics and aspects of the nature of people are generally not relevant to most position descriptions. There may be exceptions (i.e. A position that is specifically targeted towards "Diversity" initiatives). Generally, talk of sex and sexually oriented topics are inappropriate in most professional workplaces.

    With that said, now let us consider "lunch breaks", "after work gatherings", and other situations where/when we are not in the workplace and on our "own time". From my experience, sharing aspects of one's personal life is an important part of building relationships (both personal and professional). Which aspects of personal life are shared (and when) is IMHO a personal and private decision to which every person has a right. My reality of experience with other people has indicated that it is possible to share too much information that can be detrimental to relationships and to your professional endeavors. I have experienced professional situations where after I have shared that I am gay, that I have been quietly pushed out of my job. As wrong as it was, there is little court-room admissible evidence that could support a complaint alleging discrimination based on sexual orientation.

    So, I now ask myself some questions before I reveal aspects of my personal life or my opinions on controversial topics:

    What do I have to potentially gain by sharing this information about me or my opinion?

    What do I have to potentially lose by sharing this information about me or my opinion?

    What do I know about the values, ideals, and personal opinions of the person(s) with whom I may share information about me or my opinion?

    Will any or all of them be judgmental?

    Could I alienate or make an enemy with any or all of these people?

    In situations where/when I have been asked a question, and I would prefer not to share personal information or opinions, I respond with a degree of diplomacy and tact that befits how the question was asked. If the question was asked in passing, in private, or open to a group I may answer with a certain amount of reserve. If a question was asked in a pointed manner, or directly to me in public with others present, I may answer with a bit less reserved manner.

    Here are some "stock answers" that I give in response to questions like "Are you gay?" to which I prefer not to answer. These answers are usually accompanied by direct eye contact and delivered with "command presence" and perhaps with a slight smile or look of surprise.

    "I beg your pardon!?"

    Depending upon how forcefully you wish to punctuate your message and terminate further discussion of this topic, you might add:

    "This kind of question is inappropriate and offensive. I am going to pretend that I did not hear what was just said." Then, change the topic or politely close the conversation and leave.

    If asked my opinion on a controversial topic on which I do not care to share an opinion, I might respond with:

    "I have no opinion to share on this issue."
    "I do not have enough information to have an informed opinion."

    If I would like to know how the other person views the issue, I might then ask:

    "Can you share with me your thoughts, or what you know. I'm interested in learning more."

    So, there are ways that you can avoid answering the question or stating an opinion if you wish to keep your privacy. You can do so in as diplomatic and tactful a manner as you wish.

    Or, you can just state your answer or make a stand with your opinion with full knowledge of the risks as another way to make a point.

    In choosing to be more open or private, you may find yourself "paying a price" ether way.

    Aloha and Be Well!

    Alan
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    Apr 08, 2010 4:17 AM GMT
    Honesty is always the best policy.
    You never need to worry about the story you told being the "correct one" for that person and the pronouns never be switched to protect your or his identity.
    Be out and honest, but not an activist...at least not at work. Be out if it is right for you in your situation. As for advice on relationships....not gay or straight...it is about common sense and Courtesy and decency and understanding people.Also know that some people "fish" for personal information on you by asking for advice about a real on fake situation to get you to show your hand....so to speak. It is a dirty game to play but it happens when people are sneaky little gutless shits who won't ask you a direct question....
    I am out and actually was direct about it in my job interview 10 years ago....my boss is a big, "good old boy" with lots of phobias, but I have long ago won him over with my work ethic and quality of work.......you should too. icon_cool.gif
  • greenlantern1

    Posts: 131

    Apr 08, 2010 4:31 AM GMT
    fizzle saidI live in Colorado which fortunately does protect my job in terms of my sexuality icon_biggrin.gif


    Your sexuality has nothing to do with your job performance....unless you are a male stripper..haha...I have run several bar and restaurants over the years, and I told them from the beginning so that later on, there were no repercussions from this fact. In my case, I ran sports bars..so it was kind of funny....I made some great friends during my years...and anyone that said anything about me usually got ousted...from my staff...or mysteriously cut off...lol!! You have to use your best judgement of whether or not it is the best thing for you to do..just study the environment and the people and you can tell, for the most part how they will react....but really in the long run, it's your decision...
    Joeyicon_smile.gif
  • greenlantern1

    Posts: 131

    Apr 08, 2010 4:31 AM GMT
    fizzle saidI live in Colorado which fortunately does protect my job in terms of my sexuality icon_biggrin.gif


    Your sexuality has nothing to do with your job performance....unless you are a male stripper..haha...I have run several bar and restaurants over the years, and I told them from the beginning so that later on, there were no repercussions from this fact. In my case, I ran sports bars..so it was kind of funny....I made some great friends during my years...and anyone that said anything about me usually got ousted...from my staff...or mysteriously cut off...lol!! You have to use your best judgement of whether or not it is the best thing for you to do..just study the environment and the people and you can tell, for the most part how they will react....but really in the long run, it's your decision...
    Joeyicon_smile.gif
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    Apr 08, 2010 4:33 AM GMT
    fizzle saidOne of my supervisors is really cool and knows those of us that have been there for a while now really well. Something awkward though is that he talks to a few of us about his personal life and asks me in particular (i have no idea why) for relationship advise. He always asks me about "what should I do with this girl" etc. I don't know how to respond. I don't know whether it would be appropriate to come out to a supervisor. I have played my words carefully to never indicate that I'm straight, but I haven't come out fully.

    Another instance is that a co-worker today said something along the lines of "gosh I just love the spring at this school". My very gay response was:
    "I know the campus is really nice."
    and he just said "...oh I meant the girls."
    "......................oh, right."

    Is coming out at work appropriate?


    It seems to me that there are two issues here:

    1. Giving personal advice upon request, and
    2. Coming out at work.

    As for #1, I would respond with, "Boss, I don't give advice because I don't want to screw up somebody's life if I misspeak." Then quickly move on. When staff or students ask to "friend" me on Facebook, I always respond that "I have a rule that I don't cross personal and professional boundaries." Only one person questioned me on it and she is an equal in my field. I stood my ground and it was over quickly.

    As for #2, keep in mind that State laws protecting gays are useless unless you are willing to hire an attorney and see it through to the bitter end, which could take years. In some professions, this could be a career-ender.

    If it doesn't effect your work performance or duties, you may want to leave it alone. The caveat is that what would happen if your boss found out and it did effect your work. It is better for you to control the information getting out as opposed to reacting to it.

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    Apr 08, 2010 4:34 AM GMT
    Depends on your workplace culture.

    Everyone is out at my work, plenty of gay and lesbian coworkers there who are out and proud. I am out at work. Not an issue.

    So it may or may not be a factor at your workplace. Something only you can know, based on your experiences there.
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    Apr 08, 2010 4:49 AM GMT
    BigDude6ft6 said

    When staff or students ask to "friend" me on Facebook, I always respond that "I have a rule that I don't cross personal and professional boundaries." Only one person questioned me on it and she is an equal in my field. I stood my ground and it was over quickly.


    After my polite decline of invitation to friend on Facebook from professional colleagues, I then extend to them an offer to connect through LinkedIn (a social network focused on professional networking).

    "Reputation Management" is a growing trend in business as it directly relates to brand. Employees have lost jobs as a result of poor judgement in what they have chosen to post on social media sites.

    I generally take a proactive approach in the management and pruning of information posted on my social networking sites.
  • trl_

    Posts: 994

    Apr 08, 2010 5:50 AM GMT
    The environment I find myself working in is an athletic center and I'm usually working at the fitness center. I know my co-workers and this specific supervisor as fellow students would not care that I am gay, but I just don't get the right vibe from the idea of being out there.

    I have to keep this job to eat basically. I don't know if being gay Tom there as opposed to straight Tom is worth that....
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    Apr 08, 2010 8:11 AM GMT
    It's totally appropriate to come out at work. I'm out at work. If your boss can talk about his sexuality and seek advice I don't see why you can't. Especially if your supervisor knows you really well, I don't see why it would be inappropriate.
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    Apr 08, 2010 8:27 AM GMT
    fizzle saidI have to keep this job to eat basically. I don't know if being gay Tom there as opposed to straight Tom is worth that....


    Perhaps, Tom, you have found the answer to your own question? :-)

    Making the "right" choice and the "smart" choice are difficult at times. We have to pick our battles through life. There is a time and place for compliance, and a time and place for rebellion. And, sometimes our choices carry a mixed bag of positive and negative outcomes simultaneously. Bittersweet no matter which choice you make.

    Ain't life grand?!

    Aloha and Be Well!

    Alan
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    Apr 08, 2010 4:53 PM GMT
    I've found it is just easier to be out at work. One of the first things I did at my new job was put up a photo of my partner and me. People "get it" without me having to go around saying , hey y'all, I'm gay!
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    Apr 08, 2010 4:59 PM GMT
    Your supervisor came out to you as straight. You can come out to him.

    I will only work for people where I can be who I am and suggest everyone does the same.
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    Apr 08, 2010 4:59 PM GMT
    Ugh I'm not sure how much I would dig my boss talking about girls that way... I keep work and personal pretty far apart. I don't volunteer my sexual orientation, but I wouldn't lie if somebody asked. For example, if somebody asked me about a trip I took and who went with me, I would answer honestly: "my boyfriend Jay." But fundamentally I don't think think it's necessary to declare anything about my personal life at work. I don't hide it, but I don't wear a sign, either.

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    Apr 08, 2010 5:01 PM GMT
    Sexuality shouldn't become part of work, even though it does sneak in from time to time. As a professional, you should keep a distance, and UNDERSTAND, you go to work to WORK.

    You would do well to heed this advice. If you don't, it will come up and bite you at a most unfortunate time.

    Use some common sense. It's work; not social hour. Complacency will get you in a fix.

    That doesn't mean leading dual lives, being a closet case, nor being a liar. It does mean behaving properly.
  • HndsmKansan

    Posts: 16311

    Apr 08, 2010 5:31 PM GMT
    I am kind of split on my views about this. In a broad sense, I think the workplace should be about work and personal lives should be discussed sparingly and to the comfort level of the individual. I find rumor or gossip to be entirely inappropriate and prefer discussion to go on outside of the responsiblities at hand.

    In addition, because of narrow thinking, this kind of information can certainly work to ones disadvantage. Imagine if you had a "right winger" as a supervisor....

    That said, the idea of "closeting" someone at work bothers me as well.
    I'd probably go about my business, neither confirm or deny.

    In my office, some of my staff knows and some don't. My view has always been.. if they find out and they have a problem, they can work elsewhere.
    ... and for my assistants that know.. I don't talk much about it. Its my business.
  • JayDT

    Posts: 390

    Apr 08, 2010 5:41 PM GMT
    I have always been out at work. It's the only way that works for me, though that's just me. It has worked against me only once and I was fired for being too open about my sexuality because I said Mayor Villa-Regosa was cute. I'm suing that company and to my surprise my law suit has developed into a class action suit. Wrongful termination is wrongful period.
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    Apr 08, 2010 6:09 PM GMT
    It is much better to be working at an enlightened company where you can just be yourself. Try to put that into place (my advice). If however, you're not fortunate enough to be in this position, be very careful. You might make one slip and be gone before you know it. Illegal? Of course. But they are clever - and don't often admit you're being let go for being gay. They are clever enough now to say it is a "reorganization" or "downsizing". Yeah, right. Just be very careful. My advice: Have money saved, a lot of it if you have big expenses - before coming out in the work place.

    Ask me how I learned this!

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    Apr 08, 2010 6:31 PM GMT
    I've been quite fortunate with the firm I'm at. Now, granted, I've been there for 9 years now, but at the beginning, I kept my head low, and didn't volunteer much information about my personal life.

    After 9 years, word gets around, and people start to ask questions. Just a few months ago, I found out that my Vice President asked a coworker to confirm my orientation. He was quite surprised. I think after 9 yrs of working with him, and him getting to know the kind of person I am helped alot in shaping how he took the news.

    Needless to say - our company now has a diversity council and this year, I volunteered to be on the National Planning Committee for our LGBT Employee Resource Group.

    We are trying to make our workplace a better environment for folks like us to be ourselves with our peers.